On Wednesday, October 13, 2015, right before former CPS CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett's arraignment, community organizations and elected officials came together for a press conference demanding an elected representative school board in Chicago.
Cassie Creswell, Raise Your Hand Board Member, spoke about the many questionable contracts that our current unelected BOE has approved. Her press conference statement is below. Attached above is a list of some of these contracts.
The crony contract SUPES deal between Barbara Byrd-Bennett was approved unanimously by the Chicago Board of Education in June 2013. That same summer, CPS announced it would be slashing district-run school budgets by more than $160M, and Raise Your Hand repeatedly brought the SUPES contract to the attention of the board as an example of reckless spending---spending that could be cut instead of chopping school-level budgets.
Two years after CPS CFO Tim Cawley was explaining to RYH that SUPES was a “team” decision and a “strategic investment”, Barbara Byrd-Bennett and Gary Solomon have now been arraigned in federal court for fraud.
But the man who brought them together and the new owner of the revamped SUPES company, Dr. Joseph Wise, continues to do business with Chicago Public Schools. Since 2011, Wise’s charter management organization has received $18M and his company Atlantic Research Partners almost $5M. Atlantic has a contract, approved under Byrd-Bennett, for $280/hour professional development services through 2017. Another company Byrd-Bennett worked for, Catapult Learning, part of the same $66M board-approved deal, charges up to $400/hour.
Despite the district’s dire financial circumstances, the unelected board never seems to consider cutting contracts of dubious value---particularly those going to political cronies.
Over the past few months, Raise Your Hand has highlighted more than $177 million in contracts for the BOE to review and potentially cancel. We have received no response.
A couple examples:
- Almost a year ago, the Sun-Times exposed the political clout connections of three construction companie getting millions of dollars a year. Those three companies have already received more than $1M each this fiscal year.
- Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, a company that CPS’s own IG urged the district to stop doing business with in January 2013, has continued to received millions since, and is part of a $20M contract approved by the board just this summer.
- LEAP Innovations had its contract renewed this summer---its former board chair now sits on the Board of Ed. His replacement is a political donor to the mayor’s campaign fund. Another LEAP board member, Michael Moe, is the business partner of former board member, Deb Quazzo, whose business investments are still under investigation by the CPS IG.
The unelected school board has shown again and again that it is running our schools as profit centers for the financial benefit of private investors and entrepreneurs.
Chicago needs an elected board of education, one where board members who have financial conflicts of interests must bear the scrutiny of the voters at the ballot box.